MG's Chinese owners are determined to make it a great brand again - Richard Bremner visited SAIC's new plant in Shanghai to find out about its plans.
MG and Roewe's two year old Lingang Factory is an impressive sight. Said to be the most modern in China and set on a huge greenfield site outside Shanghai, it is every inch the advanced, sophisticated plant that its Chinese owners wanted it to be.
The only thing that seems out of place at this site is the badge – a large MG octagon emblazoned at the entrance, and a familiar Rover based Roewe badge as well.
The Lingang factory is very different from MG’s old home at Longbridge, and it will need to be if MG and Roewe are to achieve the level of success expected of it by parent company Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation.
Longbridge, MG Rover’s old home in Birmingham, is now a shabby and apparently silent remnant of what was once the largest car factory in Europe. The last time any serious new buildings were built at Longbridge was in the run up to the launch of the Metro, 30 years ago.
So, here in China, it's something of a shock to see so many new buildings and shiny new hardware dedicated to making cars wearing MG badges.
SAIC is China’s biggest car manufacturer, with its joint ventures alongside General Motors and Volkswagen producing millions of cars annually.
But while SAIC is a massively successful builder of other people’s cars, its long term ambition is to manufacturer vehicles under its own brands and become the leading car maker in China. MG and Roewe are a major part of those plans, chiefly with the MG3, MG6, Roewe 350 hatchback and 550 saloon.